Boardwalk Empire: Havre de Grace, review

There's only one episode to go before the Boardwalk Empire season four finale, and "Havre de Grace" sets things up nicely.

There’s a skunk in the cellar and it stinks all the way to the justice department. Nucky’s schnozz didn’t catch it because he thought he just doused the basement. Nucky (Steve Buscemi) has nose trauma, he can’t smell the rat because he keeps cleaning the traps. Nucky’s problem goes all the way to Cain and Abel, or at least the prodigal son when Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) played wet nurse for the Commodore (Dabney Coleman). Or Louis, as Leander Cephas Whitlock (Dominic Chianese, Junior from The Sopranos) calls him. Louis hasn’t forgotten the way things used to be when the boardwalk was run right. When there weren’t all these skunks on the sand.

Oscar (Lou Gossett Jr.) hasn’t forgotten either. Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) is on the lam and woodshedding with the easy riding singer Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham). That shed is like a fortress in the woods because Oscar remembers how it was and knows how it is. It doesn’t matter if he’s not in the city anymore. He knows what’s shaking when Chalky gets thrown at his gate. Oscar apparently had a similar arrangement with the Commodore that Chalky’s got with Nucky. Sure, times have changed, but not enough where you can trust a buck or a brown.

The old timers do what they each do best. Win or die trying, but the young are still circling the wagons. Chalky wants to roll. Ultimately, so does Nucky. I don’t think it’s in either of their natures. I don’t think Daughter went to Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) to finger Chalky. The men who breached the woods and trash-canned Oscar asked for the girl. They thought she was still there. The Libyan professor is nothing if not a man who knows how to get education. He learned the lay of the land within hours of traveling to Atlantic City. He tracked Chalky down easier than a Pinkerton detective.

Pinkerton Detectives were a force of private dicks and when they stuck it to you, you felt it all the way up the river. Gillian is finally free. Gillian has always been in one cage or another. She was caged by the Commodore. She was caged by a son she had too young who lived too long but died too soon. She was trapped in his wake long after the flowers dried. I’m not sure if she appreciates how much she underestimated Richard (Jack Huston), but I think Gretchen Mol plays her as a woman trapped at the age she was broken.

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When Gillian loses she always loses big and it’s heartbreaking in a way that your heart rips when a kid loses a toy they love. When she was telling Roy (Ron Livingston) that he could make himself get used to everything, her face, the lighting, the desperation behind her eyes made her glow with insidious temptation. It was like those latter-day Bette Davis thriller horrors where you knew you were looking at something scary that didn’t have a monster’s name. When the Pinkerton prick pulled his pants off she went out in a nightmare that will keep me up nights.

Nucky gets to know enough to get a good night’s sleep. No one knows more about another person than a brother. Whether they’re jealous of not getting some boardwalk medal or couldn’t write poem. You can’t fool your own brother. Nucky only lets himself get fooled once and even then he doesn’t forgive himself. He wants to get out, but he’s going to sweep the sands under the boardwalk first. On the beach, with the whole Thompson family being guarded by the waves he saw that seven maids with seven mops might not get the job done in time. Sure that meeting will happen, but someone’s going in blasting or not showing up.

I always look forward to penultimate episodes on HBO. They have a network of putting the best episode of the season right before the last. Although it’s not a hard and fast rule and I haven’t seen every show they run, but it has been true of Boardwalk Empire and it was certainly true with The Sopranos. “Havre de Grace” moved and grooved, it had two shootouts in the dark and an aerial view of horror, but they are still saving the best for last. This episode cleared the chamber. The gun goes off next week. They will have to pick up the pieces next season.

 “Havre de Grace” was directed by Allen Coulter and written by Howard Korder.

Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars


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3.5 out of 5